Anyone who has seen The Kinks performing Lola on Top Of The Pops in 1970, or caught them on stage in that giddy year, will probably agree that of all the Great British beat groups, they remain the most underrated. Well, after The Move.
What didn’t seem so apparent at the time was that Ray Davies was fronting a very English equivalent of The Velvet Underground, to the extent that Lola itself could easily have fitted into Loaded, while his other dandified tales about the big black smoke – old Soho, Denmark Street, Regent’s Park, Leicester Square – are as evocative of London Town as Lou Reed’s songs were about New York City.
‘Write about what you know’ served Ray well and when he was backed up by the magnificent jumbo chords of brother Dave and the immaculate rhythm section of Mick Avory, John Dalton and John Gosling, the world was a happy place.
This compilation, put together by Davies, accompanies the musical at the Harold Pinter Theatre and it’s a failsafe selection: 48 goodies including some splendid BBC sessions – the exceptional Tired Of Waiting For You and Dave’s Death Of A Clown stand out.
Behind Ray’s lopsided smile is a brain fizzing with ideas, snazzy couplets, vast emotion and the kind of artistic flourish that gives Waterloo Sunset the watery atmosphere of a Turner oil painting. You can smell the Thames on that song. He did great comedy too, with voices to match on Dedicated Follower Of Fashion – but where is See My Friends?